SUWANEE - It didn't matter where the football was, chances were Eric Eberhardt was somewhere near it.
Maybe it was in the backfield or even 20 yards down the field. Wherever it was, the North Gwinnett defensive end was constantly chasing, and had the uncanny ability to be around the ball.
It's that relentless pursuit that allowed
Eberhardt, the Daily Post's Defensive Player of the Year, to rack up 105 tackles and 131â "2 sacks.
"He's the most productive playmaker on defense I've coached in 20-something years," North assistant head coach and defensive coordinator Maurice Dixon said. "The thing about Eric is he's got a motor on him. He plays on Monday the way he does on Friday."
But it was on Friday when Eberhardt really shined. His sack total led the county this year. He also had 17 quarterback pressures and 24 tackles for losses.
"There's nothing more important than just running to the ball and hustling, giving it your all every single play because I mean you never know when it's going to be your last," Eberhardt said. "That's how I always played and practiced and I think it made me a pretty good ball player."
Eberhardt grew up playing offensive guard. It wasn't until the ninth grade that he switched to tight end. North coaches suggested that he move to defense as a sophomore and he got playing time at noseguard. Playing in the middle of the defensive line, Eberhardt learned to fight off double-team blocks. The experience proved valuable when he moved to defensive end in North's 3-5 scheme the following year.
Eberhardt made a name for himself last year when he posted 94 tackles and 131â "2 sacks.
Things were supposed to be different this year as teams routinely double- and triple-teamed Eberhardt, but the results were even better.
"Getting sacks is awesome because usually I had two or three guys on me at a time just because of the type of front we run, so that was really a lot of fun to get back there and get a sack," Eberhardt said. "Also down field, getting plays that I know I shouldn't get, I mean it shows how you can reap benefits for hustling and getting in there."
Eberhardt helped lead North to a 13-2 record this year and a berth the Class AAAAA state championship, the first in Bulldogs' history.
"We had a great season, we had a great run, did well in the playoffs," Eberhardt said. "It was fun just making it to the playoffs and of course everybody would like to win it."
Said North head coach Bob Sphire: "His leadership was critical to the success of our team and it was more prominent through what he did than what he said. He was a great model for our team and has a great motor."
While Eberhardt had a great regular season, he really stepped up in the playoffs.
The senior recorded 30 tackles (16 solos, 71â "2 for losses), 41â "2 QB pressures, 4 sacks, 3 blocked kicks, 2 fumble recoveries and 1 TD in five postseason games.
Was there anything he
"There's nobody that played us that didn't come out and say they always wanted to know where (No.) 94 was at," Dixon said. "He just does so much. He's constantly knocking passes down, making tackles and he can drop into coverage."
Eberhardt has a scholarship offer from Virginia Military Institute and is drawing interest from Furman, Wofford and other Big South and Southern Conference teams.
The knock on Eberhardt is that he doesn't have the size to play major Division I football. He stands about 6-foot-11â "2 and 240 pounds.
"Like I tell everybody I'm not the tallest defensive end out there that a lot of D-I colleges want, but I make up with it with speed and hustle and just going 100 percent, flying around the ball," Eberhardt said.
"I guess half the tackles are just pursuing and I like running down the ball and working hard at it. I had to be really technically sound just to be able to get by."
While Eberhardt may lack the prototypical size of a D-I defensive end, he makes up for it with his playmaking ability.
Like against Peachtree Ridge when he had six tackles and 31â "2 sacks in the Bulldogs' win over the defending co-state champion Lions.
He turned in a 14-tackle, 3-sack game against North Forsyth and against Marietta in the playoffs recovered a fumble for a touchdown.
It's those type of performances that show why Dixon believes Eberhardt will succeed at the next level. Whether it's at a Division I-A school or at a lower level.
"He'll be a great college player. You wait and see," Dixon said.
"He'll be a great player. Wherever he ends up going he'll be all-conference wherever he goes. There's no doubt in mind about that."
SideBar: All-County Football
' Offensive Player of the Year: Kenny Miles, Brookwood, Sr.
Rushed for 2,544 yards, 25 TDs in just 12 games
' Defensive Player of the Year: Eric Eberhardt, North Gwinnett, Sr.
Had 105 tackles (59 solos, 24 for losses), 17 QB pressures, 13.5 sacks
' Coach of the Year: John Small, South Gwinnett
Led team to 6-5 record and first state playoff trip since 2003
First team Offense
' QB Michael Tamburo, North Gwinnett, Jr.
2,311 passing yards, 19 TDs; 594 rushing yards, 10 TDs
' RB Diante Drake, Central Gwinnett, Jr.
Rushed for 1,501 yards, 18 TDs
' RB Demetris Murray, Buford, Sr.
Rushed for 1,085 yards, 23 TDs
' WR Brice Butler, Norcross, Sr.
52 catches for 789 yards, 12 TDs
' WR Isaiah Jupiter, Berkmar, Sr.
35 catches for 745 yards, 7 TDs; 4 interceptions
' TE Christian Robinson, GAC, Sr.
38 catches for 681 yards, 11 TDs
' OL Stephen Bolt, Grayson, Sr.
Average blocking grade of 86 percent, 52 pancakes, 63 knockdowns
' OL Calvin Cantrell, Dacula, Sr.
Average blocking grade of 88 percent
' OL Clint Duggan, North Gwinnett, Sr.
80 career pancake blocks, 39 straight starts
' OL Eric Grube, Brookwood, Sr.
Average blocking grade of 93 percent
' OL A.J. Mackey, Brookwood, Sr.
Average blocking grade of 92 percent
' PK Jordan Stowe, Parkview, Sr.
Made 10 of 17 FGs, 18 of 19 PATs
' All-purpose Tyler Jarry, North Gwinnett, Jr.
Had 891 rushing yards, 804 receiving yards, 23 total TDs
' DL Omar Hunter, Buford, Sr.
Had 104 tackles, 3 sacks
' DL Dallas Lee, Buford, Jr.
Had 71 tackles, 9 sacks
' DL Quanterius Smith, Grayson, Sr.
Had 47 tackles, 9 sacks
' DL Brad Wood, Collins Hill, Sr.
Had 67 tackles, 10.5 sacks
' LB Dion Dubose, Norcross, Sr.
Led county with 174 tackles in 12 games
' LB Kevin Minter, Peachtree Ridge, Jr.
Had 129 tackles, 4 sacks
' LB T.J. Pridemore, Buford, Sr.
Had 127 tackles, 3 sacks
' DB Derrick Bryant, Peachtree Ridge, Sr.
Had three interceptions, 77 tackles; 660 receiving yards at WR
' DB Denzell Guerra, Grayson, Sr.
Had three interceptions, 97 tackles
' DB Marquese Quiles, North Gwinnett, Sr.
Led county with seven interceptions; blocked seven kicks
' DB Kavoskee Simpson, Peachtree Ridge, Sr.
11 interceptions the past two seasons
' P Ernst Brun, Shiloh, Sr.
Led county with a 40.2 punting average
' QB Twoey Hosch, Buford, Sr.
' RB D.J. Adams, Norcross, Jr.
' RB Tyler King, Buford, Sr.
' WR Ed Russ, Mill Creek, Sr.
' WR Melvin Harris, Buford, Sr.
' TE Austin Wilson, Mill Creek, Sr.
' OL Nick Amon, Grayson, Sr.
' OL Darius Jackson, Mill Creek, Sr.
' OL J.J. Miller, Buford, Sr.
' OL Edixson Pino, Peachtree Ridge, Sr.
' OL Josh Sneed, Collins Hill, Sr.
' PK Kyle Micek, North Gwinnett, Sr.
' All-purpose, Brandon Jacobs, Parkview, Jr.
' DL Rammell Lewis, Grayson, Sr.
' DL Robert Pritchard, North Gwinnett, Sr.
' DL Hunter Simms, Brookwood, Sr.
' LB Eloka Anyaorah, North Gwinnett, Sr.
' LB Winton Steward, Parkview, Sr.
' LB Tristan Strong, Grayson, Sr.
' LB Daryle Wesley, Berkmar, Jr.
' DB Devonta Bolton, Norcross, Sr.
' DB Josh Jackson, Brookwood, Sr.
' DB Tyler Maloof, Norcross, Sr.
' DB Jim Moreland, North Gwinnett, Sr.
' P Justin Mack, Duluth, Jr.